As a child of the 80s, I was a mega-fan of The Simpsons. I had all the videos, posters, plush toys, hats, wallets, bubblegum cards… at six years old, I was even convinced I would some day marry Bart. (I'll never live that one down.) Naturally, when The Simpsons: Tapped Out mobile game appeared in Google Play, courtesy of Electronic Arts, I wanted to give it a try. Ay Carumba! I wish I hadn't: was the object of my childhood obsession really this naff? See Best Android Apps.
EA claims The Simpsons: Tapped Out is "life-ruiningly fun". Fun, no; life ruining, possibly. The game annoyed me so much I had to uninstall it for a few days, then reinstall it prior to writing this review. Although in most SIMs-style construction games this would mean you'd have to start over, The Simpsons: Tapped Out's requirement for an active internet connection means it is able to store your progress and you can pick up where you left off. But there's only so much of Homer calling out "Better them than me" to announce the completion of some menial task given hours previously that I can take. Audible notifications on my smartphone? Doh! See Android Advisor.
Get past the irritating audible notifications, which can't be switched off in a settings menu, and The Simpsons: Tapped Out continues to disappoint. Before you can start playing you need to download the rather large 40MB game file, plus a further 72.8MB of updates (you'll want to do so over Wi-Fi). You'll then need to wait a good couple of minutes for the game to load, then 'Tap to continue', then wait another minute for the game to begin. If it's your first time playing The Simpsons: Tapped Out, you'll also have to sit through a cut-scene in which Homer is so busy playing on his iPad that he causes a meltdown at the nuclear power plant. Those Apple fans…
Finally into the game, it's your job to rebuild Springfield - or, at least, a version of the town (after all, Springfield is one of the most common city names in the US). You can even visit an alternative Springfield within The Simpsons: Tapped Out, collecting dollars and doughnuts that help you to build up your own town.
You begin The Simpsons: Tapped Out with just Homer (where's Bart?), and gradually unlock other characters such as Lisa, Flanders, Cletus and Apu. Even Sideshow Bob makes an appearance: a truly undaunting experience in which you simply tap evil Bob to arrest him. Chief Wiggum is never around when you need him - which makes sense, given the scarcity of doughnuts.
There's absolutely no hint of a challenge within the game; you simply do as you are told. You're instructed when to build houses, plant trees, buy land, lay paving and so on. If Apu needs Tomacco for the Kwik E-Mart, you don't even get to figure out the solution for yourself (to build Cletus' farm and grow Tomacco).
A scrollable character menu on the left shows which tasks are currently available for each character, and you simply pick an option from a list. For each completed task you earn money and doughnuts, which are used to progress in The Simpsons: Tapped Out. If you're lucky, you might win some extra money and doughnuts with an Itchy & Scratchy scratchcard.
When a character is free to complete a task an exclamation mark appears in a speech bubble above them, and they wander aimlessly about Springfield until you give them new orders. Some tasks are completed very quickly; others take hours. For example, Apu can pray to Ganesh in 45 seconds, feed the octuplets in an hour, or spend four hours completing a shift at the Kwik E-Mart. Like all such games, you can trade physical money with virtual currency to speed up tasks.
With Lisa busy babysitting Rod and Todd, Apu relaxing in the Brown's house (who's house?), Cletus delousing the young-uns, Homer lounging in the pool and Flanders having a power walk, what's left to do but close the game? Show me one person who doesn't lose interest in The Simpsons: Tapped Out and I'll eat my shorts.
Every so often the characters interact with each other, but I struggled to buy into some of their conversations. As if Homer would really say to Apu: "Apu, you look exhausted. Why not treat yourself to a little R and R?" And why must the text appear letter by letter - can't we speed things up?
In The Simpsons: Tapped Out's defence, the voices are authentic and the graphics are really very good. What you see onscreen is exactly what you imagine seeing on your TV. Plus, with an average 4.3-star rating in Google Play, the game clearly has a lot of fans. And it is free.